Junior JaKeenan Gant scored a game-high 22 points to lead four players in double figures and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns led wire-to-wire in winning its fifth straight game with a 75-71 win over Louisiana Tech on Tuesday at the Thomas Assembly Center.
Malik Marquetti scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half as Louisiana (8-2) defeated its in-state rival for the fourth time in the past five meetings under head coach Bob Marlin. Bryce Washington recorded a double-double with 12 points and a game-high rebounds while Frank Bartley scored all 11 of his points in the first half.
Louisiana, which defeated Louisiana Tech (7-3) for the fourth time in the past five meeting in the series, built an 18-point lead in the first half before withstanding a Bulldog rally in the second half to claim win in Ruston for the second time in its last three trips.
“We were very good defensively, had a nice lead and then a couple of things fell wrong at the end of the half that would have given us a bigger lead at halftime,” head coach Bob Marlin said. “That helped set the tone for us. (In the second half) we didn’t guard them the way we wanted, had a couple of breaks go against us down the stretch but we got one thing to go our way late in the game with a jump ball that helped us preserve a good win on the road.”
Louisiana jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game as Gant capped a 5-0 run with a bucket in the lane at the 15:05 mark. Bartley added a 3-pointer that gave Louisiana a 16-6 lead with 13:24 remaining in the first half before using a 12-3 run later in the half to build its lead to 35-17.
After the Bulldogs closed the gap to 22-14 on a steal and dunk by Jalen Harris, Louisiana scored the next nine points with Justin Miller and Cedric Russell each connecting on 3-pointers and Gant adding a dunk.
The Ragin’ Cajuns led 45-32 on a Gant dunk with 17:28 remaining and 67-55 when Russell drained a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim and fell through with 6:46 left before the Bulldogs mounted a comeback.
Harris, who led Louisiana Tech with 19 points, opened an 11-2 run with a pair of free throws before a dunk by Joniah White and 3-pointer by Harris closed the gap to 67-62. After a bucket by Gant with 4:13 remaining gave the Ragin’ Cajuns a 69-62 lead, the Bulldogs would eventually close the deficit to 71-69 as Harris converted a three-point play with 2:36 left.
Marquetti answered for Louisiana as he scored on a driving layup with 2:13 remaining, and after a dunk by White got Louisiana Tech to within 73-71 with 48 seconds left, Gant responded for the Ragin’ Cajuns as he converted on a jump hook with the shot clock winding down to help seal the win.
Marcus Stroman dished out a game-high nine assists to lead Louisiana while Gant blocked three shots and recorded a career-best four steals. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished 29-for-58 from the floor and held a 32-28 advantage on the boards.
Washington, who increased his career rebound total to 851 and moved past Reginald Poole (1995-97) for fifth place on the school’s all-time list, recorded a season-high five steals while moving past Marcus Stokes (1,055 points, 1988-92) and Blane Harmon (1,060 points, 1998-01) into 38th place on the Ragin’ Cajuns scoring list with 1,066.
Daquan Bracey scored 14 points and dished out six assists for Louisiana Tech, which lost its second game at home this season and fell to 62-4 in non-conference home games dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Louisiana will return to action on Saturday (Dec. 16) when it plays host to defending Southland Conference Tournament champion New Orleans. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.